Category Archives: Life

Les marchés de Montpellier

One of the attractions of Montpellier, and the Antigone district in particular, is the variety of “marchés” (markets, usually meaning farmers’ markets). There’s the one out on the Allée du Nouveau Monde on Sundays — tomorrow, yay !; the one in the plazas right out front on Wednesdays; and then there’s the Marché aux Livres, put on by La Mémoire du Livre  on the Esplanade on Saturdays. That’s where I was today, of course.

That’s right, a book market, every weekend (unless it rains). Here’s today’s catch:

Books bought today
Today’s haul from the marché du livres.

From the bottom up, one book of Renoir paintings, two from Camus, three from Daniel Pennac, one Marguerite Duras, one Blaise Cendrars, and a lexicon of Occitan (the old language of these parts) to French. Because, you know, linguistics.

There’s also the full-on Comédie du Livres, but not until May.

Notes to self. . .

OK, I’m a few days past due, but hey, it’s my blog.

Note to self: It’s important to read the labels, especially when many of the words are not so familiar.

Today was Toussaint, which I now know is the French equivalent of “All-Saints Day” elsewhere. The day after Halloween. Here, it’s a public holiday, so no mail, no banking, and many stores are closed or open reduced hours. Apparently also means a shortage of baguettes. So when there was no fresh bread to be had at the Bio-C-Bon store (Rayons Verts was closed), I grabbed a package of two mini-baguettes from the shelf. If I’d paid attention, I would have noticed it was “bake-yourself” bread. But not all is lost: One of the suggestions, via illustration, was to cook up a couple of slices in the toaster. Cool, found a use for the toaster I didn’t expect to use! Turned out quite yummy paired with some packaged hummus. But really, Fred, read the labels, even if you have to bring up Google Translate on the phone.

Next note to self: When shipping random stuff, take the time to take an inventory of what goes in each box and bag. As sensible as I thought I had packed, I’m still surprised by what comes out of the box of vital computer peripherals. Fortunately, with each external hard drive I in fact included the power supply and appropriate USB cable. <phew!>  Which means I can, as planned, transfer data carefully and logically (?!) to the new iMac.

Yes, I recycled the near-6-year-old iMac in Santa Cruz with the rationale that shipping it to France would cost at least half what a new one would cost. And I’d still have a 6-year-old iMac. So I ambled into FNAC (roughly equivalent to a Best Buy that doesn’t feel like it’s going under any minute), and said “Je voudrais acheter cette iMac,” pointing to the stack of 21.5” iMacs near the entrance. Bare-bones model, no frills, I don’t need 4K video, thank you. At least here there’s no add-on sales tax to bump up the price; in fact, having an FNAC card newly added to the phone saved a few Euros.

Oh, and it’s pronounced like a word, F-nack, not F-N-A-C. And the fidelity/loyalty card cost is not trivial — yes, you pay for the privilege in many cases — but the savings over time can be substantial.

Final note to self: French keyboards are significantly different from standard QWERTY models. M is under the right pinky, A is a top-row pinky reach, and so on; the numbers row includes several essential accented characters, such that the numbers actually require the shift key. And more. I’ll learn, I’m adaptable, really.

WTF ‘bucket lists’ ???

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” So said Mark Twain.

One doesn’t travel just to change one’s views of other people and countries, although I’ve long said that one does learn that Santa Cruz (or wherever) is not the center of the universe. But, in that same way, the experience of reading a book or watching a play or movie can change our perspective.

That said, I don’t get the attraction of “bucket lists” or 100 places to see or places to sail or books to read before I die. The value of such experiences lies in the person I become as a result, not in checking items off a list. Once I’m dead, what’s the point? Unless I’m convinced (and I’m not) that I will bring my accomplishments into a next life — for instance, how karma affects rebirth — the benefit comes only in this life, and one’s interactions with other people.

Hence the thought that comes to mind when I choose not to watch the evening news to avoid being angered: “To what end? Who benefits?”

International finance

Or, paying bills from France.

OK, I started writing this post, and it got longer and longer and more convoluted, so here’s the short version:

  • PayPal requires that one open a new account in whatever non-U.S. country your address is in. Can’t add a ‘foreign’ address to one’s U.S. account.
  • Having done that, and added a credit card to that new account, said credit card account having the same address and phone number as the new PayPal account, and despite the issuing bank for said credit card being notified of one’s travel plans, still flags the account for unusual activity, blocks a PayPal transaction, and locks said account.
  • And finally getting a notification of said blockage via the bank’s mobile application, and acknowledging that all of the pending are indeed valid, said account is unblocked, and the desired transaction goes through.


R.I.P. FilmStruck

Very disappointed to see news yesterday that FilmStruck is shutting down as of 29 November. Bummer. Really, bummer. I was just getting ready to re-subscribe. Now who’s going to pick up the slack of all those classic movies?


Two cogent articles on the demise of FilmStruck have me revisiting one of the principles I’ve put to work in the last few years. Partly in anticipation of retiring and cutting expenses, I decided it was prudent to purchase in physical form (i.e., DVD or Blu-ray) the movies and TV shows that I really enjoy and want to watch again. But along with the goal of future expense-cutting was distrust of streaming services. For exactly the reasons that FilmStruck’s demise illustrate: I can’t count on streaming services to provide quality content. I can count on streaming services to provide  90% crap (Sturgeon’s Law at work), and to pull the good content for no good reason.

Cf., for example: Washington Post and New Yorker articles that validate my choices. Ergo, I want to own physical versions of the videos and books that I want to experience again. And to own a region-free DVD/Blu-ray player, which is on my wish-list for the apartment I’ll acquire some time next year for the long term.

Meanwhile, Amazon via Roku tells me that most of the content on my wishlist is “not available in your current location.” Which means, apparently, I’ll have to watch on the iPad via VPN, at least until the end of the year (that is, end of my US Amazon Prime subscription), and then see what’s included with Prime on Of course, I’ll keep you informed.


That’s Central European Summer Time > Central European Time, the standard time for France. We change from Daylight Saving Time (CEST) tonight, a week ahead of the U.S., so for one week there will be only 8 hours difference between here and the Pacific time zone.

And I just realized I don’t have any clocks that need to be reset tonight. Every timekeeping device I have is an electronic, internet-connected device: Smartphones, iPad, Roku, television. No car, no analog timepieces; OK, I ordered up an analog wrist watch, but it won’t be here until maybe Tuesday.

Leisurely lunch

For lunch today I visited the little “pizza” joint downstairs, A L’R du Goût. Proprietors Claude et Richard remembered and greeted me warmly, which was nice. I selected the steak de thon (tuna):

And I opted for dessert, too, a moelleux au chocolat:

Cost? 15.50€.

I could get used to this.

TaM Tram

In Montpellier, the subway is all above-ground (<< joke, ha ha). It’s known as the Tram, and is run by an agency known as TaM: Transport Agglomération Montpellier, which refers to the Montpellier metropolitan area (“métropole Montpellier”).

Of course they offer discounts to students and seniors (defined as over 60). Cost for a full year card, 321€, or about $365. A buck a day to ride wherever the Tram goes.

I got mine today. Made an appointment online for 10:00 today, showed up early, was called up early; card, complete with photo, created and I was out the door at 9:59, a minute before my appointment was scheduled. Tried it out on the Tram back to Antigone, worked immediately. A satisfied customer.